What’s That Glowing in the Water?

As it got dark during the night race to Solomon’s Island, I started to notice a lot of bioluminescence in the water.  This doesn’t happen all the time; but when it does, it’s really neat to see.  At first, it looks like a flash.  I usually have to ask myself whether I really saw something or not.  Then, I see it again and realize I’m not making this up.


Bioluminescence is when a living organism emits light.   You probably already know bioluminescence on land from watching lightning bugs.  During a night kayak tour in Vieques (where they have one of the largest bioluminescent bays in the world), I learned more about this phenomena.  Apparently, it is a defense mechanism.  Microorganisms in the water emit light to protect themselves.  Fish swimming below them will look up and think they are stars shining into the water instead of their next meal.  Other organisms use it as a way of communicating or attracting a mate.

No, I didn’t take this picture. It’s pretty tough to capture bioluminescence on film. I liked this picture & it reminded me of what I saw (in blue instead of green). So, I’m relying on a pro for this one.


The smaller the moon, the better opportunity to see the bioluminescence in action.  Although, there was a fair amount of light during the race.  So, I was surprised so much was visible.  This is the first time I saw bioluminescent jelly fish.  They looked like glowing green flashes about the size of a desert plate.  This stuff doesn’t last long.  So you have to keep your eyes focused and catch it quickly.


The night kayak tours off of Vieques (east of Puerto Rico) give incredible views of bioluminescence in action.  There are multiple tours available, but one of them uses clear boats so that you can see the light happening through the hull of the boat.  These clear boats can be rented during the tour from Vieques Adventures.  The tour guides were also fun and gave a lot of history and information during the tour.

Here are some more links if you want to learn more about bioluminescence. . . .